Semi-Final, Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th September
USA1 scraped into the knock-out stages only in the final round on Sunday, but that's ancient history. Our semi-final starts badly for us. On board 1 we have a poor 14 opposite a poor 11. Michael and Fiona reasonably judge not to play game, but the lie is very favourable and it makes. On board 2 USA1 save five-over-five in a 5-3 fit despite having three aces. Their suit is breaking 5-0, which means that our 5H contract was making, and they have a side-suit fit no one knew about which holds the penalty in 5Sx to 300. Sally, unusually for a many-times World Champion, is a big fan of the weak NT. Alas, several deals in this match will not favour it: on board six it walks into an 1100 penalty . After only six boards we are 35 IMPs down. Then the weak NT strikes back, concealing Barry's five-card diamond suit, which the opponents switch to in his aggressive 3NT contract. He makes, while USA1 go off in 2S at the other table. We have some more good boards, and finish the set only 45-38 behind. But the rest of the day goes from bad to worse. We are 58 IMPs behind at the end of the day, and need to play much much better on the second day.
Nothing very good happens in the first set: the only big swing is when they bid a vulnerable slam which is slightly worse than a finesse, while we do not. At the score we need the slam to fail, but it makes. We lose 7 IMPs on the set and trail by 65 with 32 boards to play. But something good finally happens at the start of the fifth set - they have a misunderstanding and defend a cold 3Dx, while saving in 5Dx at the other table. 13 IMPs to us, and perhaps the first step back. The boards are quiet, but we pick up some small swings and finally win a set. We are 41 behind with 16 to play.
The boards stay mostly quiet; there are not 42 IMPs in them to be won. We try a few things, and gain a few IMPs, but we don't get everything right and pick up only 13 on the set. We have lost by 28 IMPs. That's not a bad margin in a knock-out match - close enough to think you might have won on another day, but big enough that you don't have to reproach yourself over every adverse swing. In the other semi-final, Romania tie with Russia: Russia will be in the final because they beat Romania in their match in the round robin, while we will be playing Romania for third place.